We cite to uphold academic integrity, a set of principles defining ethical academic work. A student or professor who has academic integrity takes responsibility for his or her own writing and ideas. This means carefully acknowledging the contributions of others and representing one's own research process accurately.
What to Cite
An important part of academic integrity is citing the sources that you use. Your professor will probably recommend a specific format for you to use. You need to cite:
- Any quotations that come from another source
- Specific facts or statistics that you needed to look up
- Ideas that you read about and are using in your paper, even if you do not quote the author directly
You do not need to cite:
- Common knowledge
- Your own ideas, unless you have written about them before
Citing all your sources may seem like a lot of work, but there are important reasons to do so, aside from the requirements of your professor. Citations serve three purposes:
- They give credit to the author for his or her contributions.
- They help your reader find more information about the subject of your paper. Just as you can look at the bibliography of an article for more relevant works, so can others who are reading your work.
- They show that you have considered the work of others before contributing your own. This adds to your credibility because it proves you are knowledgable about your topic.
Because all these functions are very important in academic life, your professors take academic integrity very seriously and will expect you to cite all your sources correctly.